Saturday, June 18, 2011

`The Unutterable Muddiness of Mud'

“In a landscape that is nearly totally urban, just by the freeway, a pond, rushes, a wild duck, small trees. Those who pass on the road feel at that sight a kind of relief, though they would not be able to name it.”

I think I can name it. Part of the relief is negative; that is, a passing pocket of the natural world is not a strip mall or used-car lot. It is not gratuitously ugly, an insult to the senses of passersby, and not a reminder of human obligations. It demands nothing of us. It is what it has always been, a small patch of creation going on about its business of being. Some of us envy its self-containment.

A ditch I passed on the way to and from school recently turned purplish-red with a species of grass I can’t name. The effect is like a Cezanne landscape with an unexplained dash of orange among the greens. Its oddness is not discordant but pleasing. I also passed a marsh dense with cattails and phragmites, and heard the insistent call of red-winged blackbirds. This is not a diversion from the cares of the day but a call to self-forgetting and gratitude.

Maisie Ward in Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1943) says the writer took “a fierce pleasure in things being themselves,” without wishing to change them or demanding anything of them. Chesterton was pleased and excited by “the wetness of water, the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud.”

The passage quoted above is “In a Landscape” from Roadside Dog by Czesław Miłosz.

1 comment:

The Sanity Inspector said...

Another writer said of GKC during his lifetime that "He is free from the tyranny of things. Though he lived in a tub he would be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, for he would still have the universe for his intellectual inheritance."